IOWA CITY — Under a revised plan to use only private giving — and not athletics department revenue — Iowa State University this month is seeking Board of Regents approval to forge ahead with buiding a $10 million quarter-mile-long elevated walkway into Jack Trice Stadium.
Iowa State initiated the gateway bridge project one year ago — just before COVID-19 shut down the campuses and prompted regents to enact a moratorium on new construction across its public universities from Sept. 23, 2020, to June 30, 2022.
Where last year’s proposal noted the $8 million to $12 million “gateway to Iowa State” project would come from ISU athletics revenue and donations, a revised proposal made public Wednesday indicates the $10 million budget will be funded via “generous support of private giving.”
ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard clarified in a recent video message that change occurred after two donors in the fall committed $5 million each “to see this project completed.”
The goal of the bridge over South University Boulevard — connecting Gate 2 on the east side of Jack Trice with a new RV parking space — is to create safer pedestrian access to the football stadium and “enhance game day parking opportunities.”
“This is a critical project to the future development of the area between Jack Trice Stadium and Hilton Coliseum,” Pollard said in his video message. “It’s a gateway to Iowa State University. It’s a gateway to the new RV parking that will begin to be ready in the fall of ’22.
“But it will also show a tangible sign that our athletics department is moving forward.”
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Iowa State Athletics — despite a $25 million deficit this budget year from COVID-related losses — is plowing ahead with a $90 million sports performance center adjacent its 61,500-seat football venue that includes new plaza, locker rooms, meeting spaces, an academic center and nutrition facility.
“Although COVID has slowed down a lot of things in our world, the one thing that didn’t slow down is the construction on the sports performance center,” Pollard said, promising the project will open this spring and be fully complete come fall.
Other planned renovations for Hilton Coliseum and related venues aren’t as imminent — and must wait until ISU Athletics has a better sense of what the fall 2021 football season will bring.
For now, the department is focusing on the projects it has funding for — like the gateway bridge, designed to include two towers constructed with “building materials that reflect the architecture of the adjacent ISU Athletics Complex and the Iowa State Center,” according to regent documents.
The project will involve ticketing upgrades and lighting. And Iowa State is planning another $10 million in parking lots — including one connected via the gateway bridge featuring 300 dedicated RV stalls with electrical hookups “for donors who love to have RVs at Cyclone games,” Pollard said.
In that the regents’ construction moratorium only bars expanding its campuses’ square footage, University of Northern Iowa next week will seek board permission to start planning a $7 million to $8 million replacement of its UNI-Dome fabric roof.
The project — to be funded by gifts, general and athletic department funds — would replace the “center portion of the UNI-Dome’s roof” and install additional “safety lines and anchor points.”
UNI reports needing the upgrades after hiring roofing consultants last winter who found the center portion of the fabric roof — which allows natural light into the dome — had begun deteriorating and “was nearing the end of its useful life,” according to regent documents.
That portion — which accounts for about one-quarter of the entire roof — will need to be replaced by 2024, per the consultant.
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When the UNI-Dome was built in 1976, its air-supported fabric roof system made it the first indoor stadium in the nation with a “full-size, air-supported fabric roof system.”
The dome’s outer roof in 1999 was replaced with “hard” metal, and its center portion was traded for “better-quality fabric.”
Hail damage forced UNI in 2010 to replace the outer metal portion with its current PVC white roof, which is under warranty through 2040. Although UNI made minor repairs last year to the roof’s center, its replacement will “maintain the translucent light originally provided into the UNI-Dome.”
“The UNI-Dome is one of the focal points of the University of Northern Iowa’s campus,” according to a request for regents approval. “The structure provides an indoor event space for collegiate athletics, high school state football playoffs, marching band practice, intramural sports, kinesiology classes, summer camps and large events for the public.”
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